Masters of Mobility


5.3 Palaces : Berlin, Oranienburg, Potsdam

The first example of Dutch architectural influence was the restoration of the palaces of Berlin, Oranienburg and Potsdam. Residing in Kleve, in 1647 Friedrich Wilhelm commissioned the renewal of the pleasure garden at the Berlin palace and to realise Unter den Linden, the lime-tree avenue connecting the city with the ducal hunting park. The new gardens and avenues in Kleve by Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen, the Lange Voorhout in The Hague and the Maliebaan in Utrecht were its inspirations.1 A geometrical pattern of the new garden was restricted by trees and privet hedges [5]. Two terraces, one higher than the other, with the upper part containing a flower garden, were decorated with a statue of the elector by François Dieussart (c. 1600-1661) from The Hague [7]. The lower part was filled with elm trees and privet hedges and more marble statues. In a pond, a Neptune figure hold a trident that spouted water, probably made by Pieter Streng from Rotterdam. In the northern part of the garden, a botanic department was realised, in which spices for the pharmacy were grown. There was also a vegetable garden, where for the first time in Brandenburg potatoes were grown, in 1652 an orangery was built. It had been a brick building, ‘quo aedificando modo Batavi delectantur’, as court gardener Elsholz said.2 Also a summer house, or grotto, was designed by Johann Gregor Memhardt (1607-1678). It was two storeys high, had a multi angled ground plan, colossal pilasters and a gallery [6]. The façades enclosed four eight angled spaces and at the front of the building, two towers were realised. The ground floor contained the grotto with shell decorations and a water organ. On the first floor, a banquet hall was situated. The façade on the Spree side contained niches with statues of antique gods.3

Johann Stridbeck (II)
The Berlin palace garden with the ‘grotto’ on the right, and the green house in the background, c. 1690
Berlin (city, Germany), Stadtmuseum Berlin, inv./ GHZ 64/3,10


The ‘grotto’ in the Berlin palace garden, designed by Johan Gregor Memhardt, 1652
From: Martin Zeiller-Merian, Topographia electoratus Brandenburgici […], Frankfurt am Main 1652)

François Dieussart
Portrait of Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg (1620-1688), c. 1651-1652
Oranienburg, Schlossmuseum Oranienburg

The garden was not merely meant for entertaining purposes. The production of vegetables, fruit and spices were at least as important.4 For measurements at the palace, money was lacking, so only a new chapel was built and reparations were carried out.5 After a first campaign, the elector ordered 500 linden trees by Matthias Dögen, for the planting of his Berlin palace garden.6

In the summer of 1650, the old castle of Bötzow, about 30 kilometres north of Berlin, changed its name into Oranienburg.7 After it had been damaged in the Thirty Years’ War, the elector gave it to his wife on the 27th of September 1650, who was to turn her new rural estate into a prosperous enterprise [8].8 In restoring Bötzow, Louise Henriette gave an example to restore entire Brandenburg and her example was meant to be taken over by her husband, courtiers and noblemen. In the following years she would extend the land that belonged to Oranienburg creating a model farm with cows, sheep and a brewery. In 1651 she signed a contract with Dutch immigrants, who were to lease one hundred farms and rebuild surrounding villages.9 A year later Louise Henriette signed a contract with the Dutch brick baker Julius Arendsen to open a brick factory in nearby Velten.10 In Rüdersdorf a lime oven had to be built, in Hamburg Swedish tiles, lead and mortar had to be bought.11 During her absence from the site she was regularly informed about the progress. In her answers she continuously stressed the need to hurry up.12 In 1662 she asked per letter for a painting, to get informed about the present state of the works13 and she emphasised the importance of productivity in the garden.14 In Oranienburg, court gardener Peter Jurgens from Holland planted the garden with Dutch fruit trees. There was a surrounding canal and terraces, like Louise Henriette had known them from her youth in Honselaarsdijk and Ter Nieuburg.

Meanwhile, Friedrich Wilhelm decided to concentrate his attention on Potsdam, in which he invested large sums of money [9].15 His enthusiasm for Potsdam was caused by his passion for hunting. This personal motive was combined with the fact that the beautiful landscape of Potsdam was at the crossroads of shippable waters that would grant trading routes, like the Spree and Havel. Works started for the entire renewal of the castle of Potsdam. In series of prints was published, made by Johann Gregor Memhardt. Ground plans and perspective views showed the new palace with four wings, a main building, pavilions and galleries, resembling the palace of Honselaarsdijk, that had been built in the years 1621-1647 by Frederik Hendrik of Orange. The idea of a broad main building, galleries and pavilions was applied both in Huis ter Nieuburg and in Oranienburg. A striking resemblance with the Huis ten Bosch in The Hague is the main hall in the palace of Potsdam. It was 13 to wide, with an altitude of not less than 20 metres. The vault stretched out into the roof construction, where windows in the tower that was put on top of it, provided light. Beneath the great hall in the basement a cellar was situated, that was used as a dining room during the summer.16

Like in Berlin and Oranienburg, Potsdam had a large garden. It contained an orangery, statues and a fountain.17 Michael Hanff, who also worked in the Berlin garden, was the responsible gardener in Potsdam. In 1668 another gardener from the Netherlands, Dirck van Langelaer (1640-1713), realised avenues, like Johan Maurits had done in Kleve. These axes lead to a striking point in the landscape; a hill or a summer mansion, like Bornim, Caputh [10] or Glienicke.18 Other projects on a smaller scale followed. In Bornim Van Langelaer realised a garden of 700 x 220 metres, surrounded by canals and hedges, with ponds, fountains, trees, statues of river gods, nymphs, sea dragons and a water organ. 1,595 fruit trees were planted, under which apricots, peaches and almonds, hundreds of lime trees, chestnut trees and a vineyard.19


The palace of Oranienburg on a print by Johan Gregor Memhardt, 1652 (from: Martin Zeiller-Merian, Topographia electoratus Brandenburgici […], Frankfurt am Main 1652)


Ground plan of the palace of Potsdam, 1672, probably designed by Johan Gregor Memhardt
Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz Berlin


Schloss Caputh, 2010
Photo: Wikimedia


1 Küchler 1979, p. 453; Nadler 1968.

2 Wendland 1979, p. 30 and Dohme 1876.

3 Rietzsch 1987; Lademacher 1999, p. 232-233.

4 Beuys 1980, p. 93-94.

5 Peschken/ Klünner 1982, p. 45; Heckmann 1998, p. 70.

6 Beuys 1980, p. 127; Heckmann 1998, p. 56.

7 Bötzow dated back to the 12th century, was changed into a renaissance palace by Elector Joachim ii in 1550 and refurbished in 1579 by Johann Georg. Boeck 1938, p. 9-13; Grafe 1999, p. 80.

8 Glaser 1939, p. 26.

9 Lademacher 1999, 8/83.

10 Boeck 1938, p. 15-16; Lange 1996.

11 Boeck 1938, p. 22. In Rüdersdorf: Bothe 1992.

12 Boeck 1938, p. 18; Schroedter 2001; Friese 1992, p. 62.

13 Boeck 1938, p. 27; Glaser 1939, p. 27; Boeck 1938, p. 31 and Volkmann 1996.

14 Sierksma 2002.

15 On Potsdam: Sello 1888; Mielke 1979, p. 159; Giersberg 1998, p. 15.

16 Cf. Boeck 1938, p. 55; Mielke 1983.

17 Küchler 1979, p. 455.

18 Giersberg 1998, p. 22. On Glienicke: Spatz 1912, p. 133; Küchler 1979, p. 456.

19 Freusberg 1878, p. 282-284; Boeck 1939, p. 8-9; Küchler 1979, p. 456; Schumacher 1993, p. 54 and Heckmann 1998, p. 96 and 136.

Cookies disclaimer

While surfing the internet, your preferences are remembered by cookies. Cookies are small text files placed on a pc, tablet or cell phone each time you open a webpage. Cookies are used to improve your user experience by anonymously monitoring web visits. By browsing this website, you agree to the placement of cookies.
I agree